How I Would Improve the Toronto Maple Leafs If I Were GM for a Day
In such a hockey-crazed city debates and arguments about the team's current state of affairs and future endeavors are nothing new, with fans and analysts alike musing and opining about each move the team makes.
In the spirit of this penchant for playing the role of armchair general manager, the following slides put forth the four things I would do in an effort to improve the team.
There is no quick fix for the Leafs, and no one move will turn them into contenders instantaneously, however there is some tinkering that can be done in order to get things running a little smoother in Leafs Nation.
Acquire a Veteran Goaltender
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The worst kept secret in hockey is that the Toronto Maple Leafs need goaltending help.
Brian Burke maintains he's content with James Reimer and Ben Scrivens, but should an opportunity to improve upon their goaltending situation present itself, it will be seized.
With the likelihood of an upgrade between the pipes extremely low at this point, I'd be looking to add a veteran goaltender along the lines of Brent Johnson.
Johnson is an affordable option with a one-year contract likely costing between $600,000 and $750,000.
With news of Ben Scrivens signing a contract that will have him on a two-way deal next season, Johnson would be able to mentor Reimer, while Scrivens assumes the No. 1 role with the Toronto Marlies once again.
Not only would Johnson be able to impart some advice on his young crease counterpart, he would be able to take some of the workload off of Reimer, who will need to find his bearings as a No. 1 goaltender after an injury plagued season.
Work the Phone for a Defenseman
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With restricted free-agent Cody Franson still unsigned, the first order of business would be to get his signature on a new contract.
Once Franson's contract negotiations are resolved, the next order of business would be to acquire an additional defenseman.
Over the course of a season, defensive depth is of utmost importance in the event of injuries or slumping players, so an additional body on the back end is key for the Leafs. Especially considering that as of right now, their top-six defensemen aren't exactly the class of the NHL (sorry Leafs fans, it's true).
A player like Kyle Quincey would be ideal.
I'm not saying I would go after Kyle Quincey (the Red Wings would be loath to part with him considering their own lack of blue-line depth), or that he's even available, but a player with his skill set would help in multiple ways.
Quincey is a defenseman with good size, a willingness to play the body, solid skating ability and the awareness to chip in on the second power-play unit, as well as the penalty kill. In short, he can do a little bit of everything.
The price for a player with a skill set as mentioned isn't cheap, but there aren't many untouchables on the Leafs roster. And don't worry, I wouldn't trade the Leafs' 2013 first-round pick.
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The current incarnation of the Leafs is a young one, with many probably unable to grow enough facial hair for a playoff beard (although that's a non-issue anyways).
As such, there isn't much veteran leadership on the team and as last season's meltdown made abundantly clear, it's something the Leafs desperately need.
While many teams are waiting to see what the current economic landscape will look like once the new Collective Bargaining Agreement is signed before making any moves, I would be kicking the tires on Jason Arnott.
Not only would a player like Arnott command respect and provide a veteran presence sorely lacking in the dressing room, by extension he would fill some other needs such as the Leafs desire for size down the middle. This is especially valuable should the James van Riemsdyk experiment at center prove to be unfruitful.
Arnott isn't the player that he used to be (then again few are at age 37), but he's still a capable scorer who can pot 15 goals and chip in 35 points.
Although there is a glut of bodies up front for the Leafs, players like Matt Lombardi and Tim Connolly did little to impress last season, and as such aren't guaranteed playing time. Given Arnott's resume (complete with a Stanley Cup and 400 career goals), it's safe to say he's more valuable than either of them.
Extend and Offer Sheet
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Extending an offer sheet to Matt Martin would likely be an exercise in futility given the Islanders have a boatload of cap room and likely want to retain Martin for his physical play.
However, if there is an inkling that there is a chance, regardless of how remote, that the Islanders might not re-sign him I'd extend an offer sheet in an instant.
Again, it's extremely unlikely the Islanders wouldn't match any offer sheet Martin may receive (but hey, they are the Islanders), but it's worth a shot.
An average salary of $1,250,000 (increasing as high as $1,682,194) would only result in the loss of a third-round draft pick as compensation. A small price to pay for Martin in my estimation as general manager for a day.
Martin takes no prisoners (just check his YouTube hits and fights) and playing in a division with the big, bad Boston Bruins against whom the Leafs have struggled in recent years, his size and physicality would be a welcome addition.
As much as Brian Burke likes his truculence and pugnacity, the Leafs are soft, no doubt about it.
He might even give Mike Komisarek a break and drop the gloves with Milan Lucic instead too.